Former New York Governor George Pataki is in New Hampshire this week, as he weighs a run for president in 2016.
He joins Morning Edition to talk about his visit to the Granite State.
You’ve said you may be running for president, but you’ve said that before. What’s different this time?
What’s different this time is I think the conditions are far worse than they’ve been in some time. You look at the global situation and it’s just horrible to see ISIS and Al Qaeda and Boko Haram and other groups just acting with impunity and barbaric disrespect for lives and civilization really. We are in a war against Islamic terror. Sadly, this administration won’t even acknowledge its existence let alone commit itself to winning that war and it’s one the United States and the west must win.
What do you mean by the president will not acknowledge the existence? He does talk about ISIS quite often.
He refuses to use the term Islamic terror or radical Islam, and yet that is the nature of the enemy we are fighting in the case of ISIS, Al Qaeda and others.
You’re seen as a more moderate Republican. You’ve supported abortion rights and signed what was considered a pretty strict gun control law while you were governor in New York.
How do you think that will play among New Hampshire primary voters?
I’m proud of the fact that I governed as a conservative and not just a Republican in New York state. I’m the only person in the history of the state to be elected not just on a Republican line, but I ran on a conservative party line, as well. I believe in limited government, particularly at the federal level. The states should be the laboratories of democracy and experiment with things. But I just think the American people understand that we need to dramatically reform Washington. We need to reduce the size of the government.
If you decide to run, you’d be entering a huge field of high-profile Republicans said to be considering running. A recent poll of early Republican primary favorites didn’t even have you on the list. So how do you overcome that?
Pretty much every race where I’ve run for the first time, I’ve started from the back of the pack. That never worries me. Republicans should have a very good and broad field of potential candidates, that’s good for the party and good for the country. I’ve never been concerned about what others might do; it’s about what you believe you can do. I know I can lead a large, complex government. And not just lead it, but change it in the way to reduce its power and its impact and its influence and its cost in a way I believe America needs right now.
So how do you overcome though the lack of name recognition out there?
By doing things like this, by being in New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina. One of the great things about New Hampshire being the first in the nation primary is that so much of the campaigning here is retail politics. I’ve spent the last two days in pizza parlors, coffee shops and a couple of college campuses talking to people. They let me know their feelings and they hear my thoughts, as well. That’s the way you do it.
One issue that’s getting a lot of attention of late is immunizations.
Both New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said this week immunizations should be voluntary. Rand Paul raised concerns about vaccinations causing mental disorders.
What’s your reaction to all this?
I thought the idea that vaccinations might be a bad thing was settled when George Washington vaccinated the troops at Valley Forge against small pox. I think it’s absolutely critical that children be immunized. Last year, there were 50,000 cases of whooping couch in the United States. That’s a horrible disease and 20 young children died. You may say a parent is not going to immunize their 6- or 7-year-old, that’s their decision. But that 6- or -7-year-old if they get sick can infect a 2- or 3-year-old who’s too young to be immunized. And that child could die because of the neglect of the other parent.
So is it bad for Republicans to have these high-profile party leaders and possible presidential candidates out there saying these things?
People say what they believe and that’s certainly appropriate and the public will decide the ideas they think are best for the future of the country. I don’t agree with anybody 100 percent of the time and I think a dialogue as to whether something is a good thing is generally a good thing for the American people to hear.